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DrFee, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 437
Experience:  I help people overcome anxiety and enjoy life again.
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I have obsessive thoughts about mistakes I've made and find

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I have obsessive thoughts about mistakes I've made and find it hard to move on. I feel like I have to live in secrecy or worse still, live a lie. Can you briefly explain some sort of way to cope with this? What would you recommend?
Hello! Please remember that my response is for information only, we are not establishing a therapeutic relationship.
I am sorry that you are feeling so badly about mistakes that you have made, but the truth is, that there's not a single person alive who has not made significant mistakes --therefore, we all do need to learn how to cope with them and not let them ruin our lives.
The things that you have tried will not work because the things you are trying to "forget" are a part of your past and you cannot change that. However, if you allow yourself to grieve those decisions and feel the negative emotions that go with them, you can "process" through the mistakes and learn to give yourself grace for them.
One important thing to remember is that feelings do not last forever, so if you start to allow yourself to feel the sadness regarding these memories, even though it may feel intense, it won't last --you will feel it for awhile and then it will lift (you will probably feel it again later until you work through the feeling).
There's no reason to do all of this alone --this is the perfect reason to go into therapy and have someone help you work through these memories and feelings. In the UK you could look for a therapist at this site:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be particularly helpful for you to do this kind of work --some of your beliefs surrounding your decisions may be hindering your ability to get past them. Sometimes we are far more judgmental about things that we've done in the past than is realistic or helpful. You can read about CBT here: CBT looks at how our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and feelings in our bodies are all related to different memories and can help us change those patterns.
If your memories have to do with traumatic events that have happened to you, EMDR is a good therapy for resolving those memories. EMDR is a therapy that helps you work through "stuck" places by helping your brain work through stuck points of memories that are traumatic.
The best thing you can do right now is try to give yourself grace, whatever you've done can be forgiven, by yourself or by others. Try to identify your beliefs about what you've done and examine whether they are rational or not. Again, you may not be able to do this by yourself.
I wish I could give you a magic wand to make everything better all at once, but unfortunately will take some work on your part. However, please know that you can do it and not be haunted by the mistakes of your past!
Dr. Fee
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for the information you've given me thus far.

The severity of my obsessions tend to change quite a bit. Sometimes I'll be sitting here and accepting the situation as it is, to curling up on the bed in a fetus position wanting to disappear.

A lot of my obsessions mainly revolve around "what if" and attraction. I tend to look into a lot of macabre and taboo topics out of interest and then feel sick with myself afterwards wondering if I'm just like the things I look up.

It doesn't help by looking them up, of course. I don't know. I just want to have some sort of technique in my mind to disregard the thoughts which is where I suppose the CBT would fit in. Any other thoughts you have regards ***** ***** based on this extra information?

Thank you for the additional information, but I do have a question now, what happens if you try to resist looking up those "taboo topics?" Also, what goes on with you right before you do it --is it just out of interest or is there another pattern going on that you can pinpoint?
I will give you some more suggestions, but I'd like to hear your answer to those questions first.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

What happens if you try to resist looking up those "taboo topics?"

Well it's kind of like an addiction. Like an alcoholic having just one sip of beer to calm down. I can resist for so long but then I have to look it up to put my mind at rest. For example if have a thought about hurting a family member, (which I never would) I'll look up news stories and stuff about people who have done such a thing. There's a certain satisfaction to looking it up but then it comes back on me ten times worse because I think "maybe I am like that" and so on and so on.

Is it just out of interest or is there another pattern going on that you can pinpoint?

I'll be obsessively thinking about something I said or something I did in the past, and the urge to look into such things will arise, again making me think about it a lot more. I'll just be overwhelmed by shame but it's still a coping mechanism to put some of my thought patterns right. It's just a destructive Catch-22, really.

OK --while I cannot give you a definitive diagnosis over the internet, what you describe is consistent with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
You want to seek the help of an OCD specialist if at all possible. If you are anywhere near London, I would seek out Dr. ***** *****:
He can give you a good referral if it's not possible to see him.
Here is an excellent book for you:
It is by Edna Foa, one of the pioneers in the field of OCD treatment.
In this book she gives help for "breaking the cycle" of this kind of behavior and describes what therapy can be like for it.
One of her techniques is to "delay" the compulsive behavior (rather than just trying to stamp it out) even for a short period of time, such as 5 minutes. After 5 minutes you decide if you can go another 5 minutes or if you need to engage in the behavior. This is FAR better than just trying to "not do it" because when you fail, despair, shame, and the idea that you "must" engage in the behavior gets reinforced.
She gives other ideas as well, and they are all related to "breaking the pattern" just a little bit and not trying to "stamp it out" all at once.
Let me know what you think about my thoughts here.....
DrFee and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I'll have a look into the stuff you've shown me and thanks for your advice, Dr Fee.

You are welcome, and I hope that you find good help soon. Thank you for the positive rating.